Interview with Director DERRICK SANDERS

Founding Artistic Director DERRICK SANDERS on reimagining Douglas Turner Ward’s groundbreaking 1965 play Day Of Absence to commemorate Congo Square Theatre Company’s 20th Anniversary season. Day of Absence runs February 27-March 22, 2020 in the Richard Christiansen Theatre at Victory Gardens. To purchase tickets, and for more information please call 773-296-1108 or visit the website at

Derrick Sanders is assistant professor for theater at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Founding Artistic Director of Congo Square Theatre Company. His most recent credits include Topdog/Underdog, Five Fingers of Funk at Minneapolis Children’s Theatre, August Wilson’s 20th Century Cycle at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at Center Stage, Elmina’s Kitchen, Stick Fly with True Colors theatre in Atlanta, his Off–Broadway debut King Hedley II at Signature theatre and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. He has also directed the World Premiere of the Jeff Nominated Deep Azure and the BTAA, Black Excellence and Jeff Award winning production of Seven Guitars, for which he received a BTAA and JEFF Award for Best Director as well as a Black Excellence Award for Best Producer.

He was also part of August Wilson’s world premiere productions of Radio Golf and Gem of the Ocean. Sanders was named 2005 Chicagoan of the Year in Theater by the Chicago Tribune. He received his training from Howard University where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts and the University of Pittsburgh where he received his Master of Fine Arts.


Congo Square Theatre Company (Congo Square) is an ensemble dedicated to artistic excellence. By producing definitive and transformative theatre spawned from the African Diaspora, as well as other world cultures, Congo Square seeks to establish itself as an institution of multicultural theatre. Congo Square is one of only two African American Actors’ Equity theatre companies in Chicago. Founded in 1999, Congo Square aimed to provide a platform for black artists to perform and present classic and new work that exemplified the majesty, diversity and intersectionality of stories from the African Diaspora.

Congo Square has risen to become one of the most well-respected African American theatres in the nation. Previously mentored by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson, Congo Square would go on to cultivate talents such as playwright Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), who penned the 2006 Jeff nominated play Deep Azure, and playwright Lydia Diamond, who penned the massively successful Stick Fly, a critically acclaimed play that explores race, class, and familial friction. Stick Fly ultimately ran on Broadway and is currently being developed into a full-length series for HBO with Alicia Keys serving as a producer. Congo Square also produced the widely praised Seven Guitars, which would eventually go on to win top honors for best ensemble, best direction, and best production at the 2005 Joseph Jefferson Awards. This would earn the theatre company the distinction of being the first African American theatre company to receive such an honor.

Congo Square’s Educational Programs bring the impact of theater to young audiences. Its two outreach programs, CORE (Curriculum Objectives Residency Enrichment), and CAST (Congo After School Theatre), present and teach theater arts by providing classroom and after-school residencies that provide Teaching Artists to build upon already established Chicago Public Schools literature and art curriculums. CORE and CAST impact students and schools located in the Bronzeville, Auburn, Gresham, Douglas, and Woodlawn neighborhoods.

For more information, please call 773-296-1108 or visit